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The presence of the “Rock of Angels” — an unofficial memorial to those lost on 12/14 that was gifted to Newtown and installed in August 2013 behind the former St John’s Episcopal Church in Sandy Hook Center — has caused local selectmen to delay accepting a donated parcel of land on which the memorial rests. St John’s was among small congregation facilities recently closed by Episcopal Church officials and will be sold as a commercial structure in the coming months.
But as selectmen were poised to approve the land purchase December 19, they decided instead to hit the pause button to provide time for First Selectman Pat Llodra to consult with members of the appointed Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission regarding the seven-ton tribute.
Mrs Llodra told her colleagues Selectmen Herb Rosenthal and Will Rodgers that she recently received a letter from officials representing St John’s offering to donate the four-tenths of an acre where the monument sits just a few hundred yards from the grounds of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School, and less than a mile from a site the Permanent Memorial Commission has sanctioned as the likely site for an eventual official memorial installation.
Any land acquisition plan begins with the selectmen, Mrs Llodra said, before going to the Legislative Council for final approval. She said by accepting the small parcel, the town would be forced to accept responsibility for securing and maintaining the Rock of Angels.
The wedge-shaped, salt and pepper gray piece of granite envisioned by Florida resident Richard Gray features an angel carved across what has become the front of the monument. The names of the 20 children killed on 12/14 are within four hearts, two on either side of the angel.
The names of the six educators killed that morning have been carved within the outline of the angel.
Mrs Llodra told the selectmen she believes the inclusion of the memorial with the land donation creates a need to have more discussions.
“So we have two options: bring others in to discuss or send the decision to the council without a recommendation,” Mrs Llodra said.
Mr Rodgers wondered if church representatives needed to complete the parcel donation before they sell the rest of the property. The first selectman responded that selling the property while it still encompasses the memorial doesn’t make it a “clean issue.”
Mr Rosenthal acknowledged that the Rock was a gift.
“I know now we have to accept liability for it,” if accepting the donated land he said.
“I’m not averse to bringing it to LC for further conversation, but I’m of mixed mind,” Mrs Llodra said. She accepts that the parcel would make a unique addition to Newtown’s public land inventory.
But if it was ever considered for other possible uses, the first selectman said the presence of the memorial is “handicapping the situation.”
“It was not supported by the town,” she said of the Rock, which was transported from Maine and installed at the discretion of St John’s congregation leaders.
“If we were to take the land and move the rock, we don’t have an elsewhere to move it to,” Mrs Llodra said. So if the town is to decide about taking it on, she felt the Permanent Memorial commissioners should be consulted.
While Mr Rodgers was inclined to accept the parcel with the memorial, Mr Rosenthal said he was not opposed, but also had no strong feeling to accept it, either.
“As much as we honor what they’ve done with the [Rock of Angels] memorial, we should also let the Permanent Memorial Commission in on this pending action, since a memorial is involved,” Mrs Llodra asserted.
With that item added to the first selectman’s “to-do” list for the first few days of 2017, the selectmen agreed to delay any further discussion until they meet with Permanent Memorial Commissioners and church officials to get more details and ideas about the land and Rock of Angels offer.